Christmas is around the corner and my anxiety levels are rising. I’ve promised – yet again – to spend the holiday with the family. It’ll be super-duper to see them. Really, it will. For a few days, I won’t have to do any cooking or cleaning. I will shlep around in my PJs. I will eat as much as I want, and add a dollop of double cream to everything. (If everyone else is doing it, the calories cancel each other out.) And I might actually get the chance this time round to rummage in the attic for that missing box of LPs.
Is it heaven on earth? It might be – if it weren’t for all the talking. The questions from relatives – How’s that book coming along? Oh, still no publisher? Have you got a proper job yet? Does it pay? – I can just about handle. From years of experience, I know that praising said relative’s Labradoodle, Christmas tofurky, exfoliated chin and general outlook on life will get the attention away from me.
No, it’s the general barrage of noise that scares me. The onslaught, an incessant nattering, that starts at 5.30am on Christmas Eve and continues all day and well into and beyond Boxing Day. I just know that Auntie B will tell that ginseng story again that will include a series of racial slurs cunningly disguised as worldly wisdom. Cousin J will show me his boils. And Uncle T will make me a spreadsheet on all the ways I’m going wrong in my life. And they will do so all at the same time. In the same ear.
So, when I bumped into Santa at TGI Friday, red faced and frost-bitten from his toy-shop appearances and global warming respectively, I asked him – Why do I put myself through this every year?
Me: ‘Santa, why must I shop till I drop at Christmas?’
Santa (with a saucy smile): ‘It is sexy! Do you know my favourite author, my dear? Sophia Kinsella! The woman has made living on a permanent overdraft – with masses of unpaid bills and mounting credit card debt – sexy! If, before the Shopaholic series, you felt a little dirty doing all that shopping, now you feel helplessly feminine, charmingly kooky, and flighty – but in an endearing way! And, anyway, you know how it goes. You’ve asked mum to tell the relatives not to buy you presents, because you’re broke (yes, again) and you can’t afford to reciprocate. But, you know, everyone will get you a present. They will say that it doesn’t matter that you didn’t get them anything, but it will! If I were you, cupcake, I’d pop in at Lush on the way out and get everyone soap. It’s good for the economy.’
Me: ‘Is it good for the economy?’
Santa (sipping his appletini): ‘Of course! We must maintain the status quo! Imagine for a minute that Mr Bank Manager didn’t earn £500,000 this year, and you, doll – a writer, did you say? Spiffing! Here, have a free mince pie, you look a little hungry. Where was I? Yes, if you earned more than, say, £7000 a year, or if you didn’t have to pay the editor just to publish your articles, and if Mr Bank Manager didn’t live in a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park, where would we all be? The economy has taken a beating lately, and the government wants us to spend so we can go back to being in denial. It is natural to be in denial. Clarity would only bring us down!’
Me: ‘Err, right. Okay, so why must I eat till I pop?’
Santa: ‘It beats me how you’re supposed to know when to stop. Once you start with the turkey and the roast potatoes, move on through the extra stuffing to the pudding and the cream, why, you have to come back to the potatoes!’
Me: ‘Why must I put cucumber in my wine and egg in my nog?’
Santa (now a little woozy): ‘Perfection is boring, my little lollipop. Excess, excess! Celebrate excess!’
Me: ‘Gotcha. Then, why must I drink till I – Oh, never mind, I already know the answer to that one…’
Image by Keoni Cabral courtesy of Flickr